Working With the Over-Scheduled and Stressed Music Student

music student stressed

There are a vast number of opportunities that compete for time with music students today.

Sports used to be limited to one season and only a couple of practices a week. Now, there’s travel ball, extra practices, three-a-days, private lessons and extra camps.

Students are pushed to the max in school as well.

The couple of AP or honors classes that were offered in the past are now replaced by multiple AP class availability in all subjects as well extra tutoring sessions, future this-that-and-the-other clubs that seem to be so important, not to mention all the requirements of the typical student-athlete leave our kids today with little free time and even less music time!

So how do we deal with the hyper-scheduled and overly-stressed music student?

Employ the parents.

Many times, it is parental ego that over-schedules the kid.

They have high hopes of college scholarships and maybe even professional goals for their kids that are a bit unrealistic in other areas, especially sports.

Know your parents. If this is where their thinking is, you can use this to your advantage. Remind them that while all schools have a football team, not all football players can move around an instrument at a high level.

Playing an instrument for a number of years sets them apart from other student-athletes with similar prowess on the field and make them more well-rounded.

Help them understand that music is a quality of life thing, and their child should not miss out on the opportunity to really understand it.

It is very rare to hear someone say they wish they had never taken music lessons. Instead, they wish their parents had not allowed them to give up on it.

They understand the value of music or they wouldn’t have brought their child to you.

Give them opportunities to see professionals in concert as a family. Encourage them to unplug and connect with our past.

What were those people living through when that masterpiece was created?

Be realistic.

Instead of focusing on creating a concert pianist or symphony musician, focus on creating a lifelong lover of music: one who will support the arts with enthusiasm and understanding.

These kids are the future audiences. Help them want to be!

Music may not be the top priority in your student’s life now, but it will always be something they can remember.

There are bound to be a couple of things outside of music or even one major one that hits the top for them. If it is not music (what?!?!?!), figure out what is and help show them how music adds to it rather than taking their time away from their primary desire.

Liken music to their other passions, and they will make room for it.

Be their light.

In the world of hyper-extended and overly stressed students, you have the
opportunity provide their respite. You may not realize how broken and defeated they are when they arrive for their instruction.

Show them how music is the break in their life: something to turn to when everything else is overwhelming. It becomes an outlet for their frustration, sadness, and even hyperactivity. It can be that one thing that helps them find their center.

With that in mind…

Program accordingly.

You have the opportunity to tap into those emotions they are already feeling and become increasingly expressive. Boom! Two birds, one stone.

Choosing appropriate repertoire is one of the most of the important aspects of our teaching. We need to select music that is attainable and exciting, that challenges but motivates.

Choose music that explores nuances that the student has not yet encountered that they can recognize in other concert pieces, pop songs, and movie soundtracks.

Know your student’s schedule. What are they actually physically capable of scheduling in terms of practice time?

At best, they’re getting ample practice time in at home. At worst (normal scenario for many), they’re only able to accomplish a little during lesson time.

When a student is able to achieve a high level on a piece of music, it only motivates them to reach higher!


We all agree that student practice is essential, right? Of course, we do! The benefits of student practice are numerous.
 
*Students make amazing progress
*Parents make good on their investment
*Increases student retention (more $$)
*Teacher’s are happier
 
And the list goes on and on!
 
Well, over here at PracticeHabits.co, we’re all about supplying piano teachers (like you!) with well-crafted resources to help you inspire more MORE student practice!
 
So, join us for a free LIVE online training next Thursday, May 3, and learn 3 Simple and Proven Strategies to help inspire MORE student practice.
 
Your students deserve this, their parents deserve this, YOU deserve this.
 
So what do you need to do to register for this free event?
 
1.) Click the picture below
2.) Sign up for your favorite time
3.) Show up next Thursday
 
It’s going to be a lot of fun 🙂 And if the training isn’t quite enough to pique your interest, then you don’t want to miss out on the special FREE gift that we’re giving away to ALL who attend.
 
So, sign up and we’ll see you next Thursday.
 
And keep up the important work that you do, because it really does matter!

Teaching Precise Rhythm to Piano Students

teaching rhythm

Teaching precise rhythm isn’t the most exhilarating thing to teach, but it’s essential. Especially, if we want our students to become well-rounded musicians.

The following video is from a free online training that I gave on the topic.

These are simple and straightforward strategies designed to help you teach your students how to play with precise rhythm.

Why do you teach piano?

teach

A familiar scenario –

Teacher: “I’m excited to teach today!”

“I just love my students!”

“I love my job!”

“I love the piano!”

“I love music!”

“I want to instill value in the next generation!”

“I am so excited to teach today!”

Student shows up and sits down at the piano.

Opens the book.

No practice at all.

Teacher is frustrated.

There’s hope, though.

Maybe the student will crack open his book next week and practice the notes on the page.

Teacher delivers an inspiring message to the student, challenges him, then sends him on his way.

It’s lesson day again.

Teacher: “I am so excited to teach today.”

Student comes in.

The teacher is thrilled.

Student sits at the piano, opens his book, places his hands on the keys.

No practice yet again.

Teacher is frustrated, but musters enough energy and enough encouragement, from within, to say, “All is well. We’ll try again next week.”

Teacher is hopeful, and as the week presses on begins to get excited again.

It’s lesson day.

Teacher: “I am so excited to teach today!”

Student comes in and sits down at the piano.

No practice.


So, why do we do it?

Why do we put ourselves in this situation?

We’re trained musicians.

We’ve studied our instrument and become experts in our craft.

Why do we do it??

Why pour into students who, week after week, show up unprepared?

What’s the reason?

Why teach if it’s yielding the same results over, and over again?

Well, I can’t speak for you, but I can tell you why I do it.

Because I know I have something important to say.

One phrase that I speak to a student who is having a bad day (or an awesome day),  or experiencing something traumatic, might inspire and encourage her.

At some point, I’m going to say something that rings in that kid’s head from now through the rest of her life.

She’s going to know that Mr. Chris loves piano, Mr. Chris loves music, and Mr. Chris loves her!

Yes, it’s frustrating when students don’t practice.

It’s frustrating when they come to lesson after lesson unprepared, wasting our time and their parents’ hard-earned money.

And, I’d be remiss if I didn’t say we should look for ways to encourage our students to practice.

And, not only them… But to encourage their parents to be more actively involved in their child’s music education, so that they’re not wasting their money, and so that their child is actually learning.

But, at the same time, even though your students are not always prepared, keep pouring into them.

They love you.

They respect you.

You may not witness it every single time you see the student, but keep up the outstanding work you’re doing.

Encourage them.

Teach them that music is important.

That music is a way to express themself.

Music is a gift that keeps giving.

One day, your student might just end up… Not in a concert hall or in front of thousands of people, not on the Naxos recording label…

But, at the local retirement facility, playing for the elderly.

Or, at a local community event raising funds for folks affected by a recent natural disaster.

Or, playing for a church worship service.

Or, just playing for their family at home, or for their own enjoyment.

What you’re doing is not going unnoticed.

You’re doing important work.

Keep it up!

Keep pouring into your students’ lives and know that you’re making a difference.

I hope this encourages you today.


I’d love to hear from you!

Why do you teach?

How do you stay inspired when your students don’t practice?

Please leave a comment below.

What is Rote Learning and Why Should I Teach By Rote?

teaching by rote

Rote piano teaching seems to be experiencing a resurgence.

But what does it mean to teach by rote?

Webster’s has two definitions for the word.

  1. “The use of memory usually with little intelligence.”
  2. “Mechanical or unthinking routine or repetition.”

I don’t really appreciate the first definition…

Little intelligence?

I guess Webster is trying to say that there’s no formal process for solving a problem such as an algebraic formula or the scientific method.

But it sounds demeaning!

The reality is that this method of learning is an excellent way for students to quickly discover musical patterns and develop their ear.

The following is a quote from the mid 20th-century Japanese violinist Shinichi Suzuki. I firmly believe his thought process.

The early years are crucial for developing mental processes and muscle coordination. Listening to music should begin at birth; formal training may begin at age three or four, but it is never too late to begin. Children learn words after hearing them spoken hundreds of times by others.

The primary concern among piano teachers in teaching the Suzuki method is that it takes so long to begin written notation.

So, why not adopt a hybrid approach? Why not teach music by rote and traditional notation at the same time?

There are several benefits to teaching by rote.

  • It forces students to quickly identify musical patterns.
  • It helps student’s ears develop more quickly.
  • It helps students learn precise rhythm and correct fingering.
  • It allows students to play more exciting music at an early age.
  • It paves the way to excellent musicianship.

Alfred Schnittke is one of my favorite composers and musical thinkers.

Schnittke advocated that the future well-rounded musician would feel at home with various styles. In other words, she would play jazz, classical, pop, and other styles equally well.

Do you know any musicians that can masterfully play in different styles?

Chick Corea, Dave Brubeck, and Yo-Yo Ma come to mind.


So now that you have a good understanding of rote piano teaching and its many benefits, you may be asking, “what makes a good rote piece?”

Above all, patterns.

Music is all about patterns. Well-crafted music is full of familiar patterns to help listeners grasp the main themes and ideas.

Here are a few fantastic rote selections listed by Natalie Weber at the Music Matters Blog.

  • A Day in the Jungle by Jon George
  • Bumblebee Toccata by Lynn Freeman Olson
  • Buzzing Bee by Mark Nevin
  • Castle Days by Kathleen Massoud
  • Cross Current by Ted Cooper
  • Devil’s Night Dance by Catherine Rollin
  • Dragon Hunt by Nancy and Randall Faber
  • Dream Echoes by Nancy and Randall Faber
  • The Fly by Nancy and Randall Faber

Candle in the Night, The Music Train, and Running in Circles are three excellent rote pieces that you can find in the PracticeHabits.co store.

I love what Amy Greer has to say about scouring for rote piano pieces on Tim Topham’s brilliant Creative Piano Teaching Podcast.

She says that a good rote piano piece is a piece that’s easier to teach by patterns than traditional notation. If it’s simpler to learn from the music, then it’s not an ideal rote piece.


I hope that you’ve found this article to be helpful and informative.

As always, thank you for your ongoing support of the PracticeHabits.co community. I appreciate you.

Your friend,

Chris